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Foods -- Eggs

How safe are eggs?

Rating: 100

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a regulation to improve food safety as it pertains to EGGS. This regulation requires shell egg cartons to bear safe handling instructions because of eggs' association with Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), a bacterium responsible for foodborne illness. Approximately one out of every 20,000 eggs produced in the United States is estimated to be contaminated with SE. The required statement is as follows: SE outbreaks have been attributed to undercooked eggs and foods containing undercooked eggs served in homes, private gatherings and commercial establishments. For consumers, eggs can be an important source of nutrition. You just need to cook your eggs thoroughly - no sunny side up, no over easy. This is a case when it's better to be safe than sorry. Persons infected with SE may experience diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting. However, children, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems may develop severe or even life-threatening illness. Additionally, the rule requires that eggs be placed promptly under refrigeration at 45 F or lower upon delivery at retail establishments (supermarkets, restaurants, delis, caterers, vending operations, hospitals, nursing homes and schools). Refrigeration at an ambient temperature of 45 F or cooler slows the growth and development of SE. This rule is one part of the large Egg Safety Action Plan, a farm-to-table approach for ensuring the safety of our nation's egg supply (announced by the President on December 11, 1999). To prevent illness from bacteria, keep eggs refrigerated. Cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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